The Enterprise Center in Johnson County (ECJC) announced that it will be starting an MIT-modeled mentorship program for entrepreneurs in Kansas City and the surrounding area. This program, which will be free to qualifying entrepreneurs, meets a growing need that Kansas City has and is just one of the few such programs that are cropping up. While the idea of mentorship programs is still being explored in Kansas City, it’s a model that has worked for other communities and will be vital to Kansas City’s thriving startup scene.
Steve Roatch, CEO of Twentyseven Global, has supported mentorship programs for a long time and is an active mentor, advisor and investor to local startups and accelerators, including SparkLabKC. He said, “Even seasoned executives and serial entrepreneurs have mentors. Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. One key insight can often save an entrepreneur weeks or months.”
So why is mentoring so important to Kansas City entrepreneurs? For one, Kansas City is the perfect place for mentorship. Not only does the area have a huge number of startups and accelerators, but Kansas City also has a large population of experienced, savvy, business leaders who make incredible mentors. These mentors can advise startups in ways that can dig deep into each company to really help them grow.
Those of us involved in the Kansas City startup community know how supportive it can be to those business owners just starting out. Mentorship builds onto that support by creating long-lasting, collaborative relationships. Kansas City entrepreneurs can gain confidence when faced with difficult business challenges through the encouragement and advice that mentors offer.
The Houston Chronicle lists some other benefits of mentorship, including the chance to vent and share in the frustrations of running a business with someone you can trust, being able to be advised by someone who has been there and done that and the opportunity to gain a different perspective.
Perhaps the most important reason why mentoring programs are so important to Kansas City is because they fulfill a need. In the Startland News article about the ECJC mentorship, Melissa Roberts, marketing director of the ECJC, said, “Mentoring is an essential part of entrepreneurial development, especially in Kansas City, where entrepreneurs struggle to gain the traction necessary to attract angel investor interest due to a pervasive seed capital gap. We believe that a reputable, later-stage mentoring program will bridge gaps where our local capital markets fail, and ultimately, create more companies ready for and attractive to Series A investors.”